Is the U.S. a Force for Good in the World?

Eric Zuesse

First of all, in terms of popularity worldwide, the U.S. is a mixed picture. A Gallup International poll of 65 countries, issued on 30 December 2013, found that: 

“The US was the overwhelming choice (24% of respondents) for the country that represents the greatest threat to peace in the world today. This was followed by Pakistan (8%), China (6%), North Korea, Israel and Iran (5%). Respondents in Russia (54%), China (49%) and Bosnia (49%) were the most fearful of the US as a threat.”

(Some of the reasons why America is considered, by people throughout the world, to be the biggest threat to peace, will be documented below.)

More details in that poll were reported here. This poll also found some marginal advantages for America in the country’s reputation as a place to live. It found that: 

“The majority of people (38%) are in fact happy to live where they currently reside. This figure is matched by those in the Western Europe region where 38% would choose to live where they currently live, with 36% of the UK population opting to stay in the country and a substantial 66% of Australia respondents answering that they would not consider relocating. Overall, those in the MENA [Middle East North Africa region] (47%) and Americas (46%) regions are most likely to stay where they currently live. For those who would like to move, the survey highlights that the USA (9% of respondents) is the most desirable destination, with Canada and Australia jointly being second choice (7%) and Switzerland third (6%). Only 4% of the world’s population would like to live in the UK, a figure common to other European countries including Spain, France and Italy.”

The top-scoring countries, and their scores, were shown here.

In any case, the U.S. was a rather popular place to move to on account of its being the only nation that adjoins the much poorer country of Mexico to the south, and so the U.S. has long been a popular destination from those relatively poor and violently high-crime countries, especially (besides Mexico itself) El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. This does not necessarily mean that the U.S. is a force for good in the world, however.

That 2013 WIN/Gallup poll (which was from the Worldwide Independent Network of Gallup International) is the only comprehensive international poll that has been made at all public regarding the cardinal question of which country is “posing the greatest threat to peace” in the world. The poll itself was not made available online, but was instead only summarized in a press release by WIN/Gallup, perhaps because the answers on that particular question were so negative regarding the United States Government, which is a major financial backer of Gallup International’s polling. Although a subsequent “End of Year Survey 2014” was done, it reported nothing at all on the key question of “the greatest threat to peace in the world today.” Perhaps, if the U.S. Government sponsored the poll, it decided that in the year 2014, after President Obama’s violent Ukrainian coup in February followed by civil war and ethnic cleansing in Ukraine, and with other international conflicts in which the U.S. played an important part, yet another year of the U.S.’s topping Russia, by over four-to-one, as being a “threat to peace” in the world, would not be something that the U.S. Government would want to draw public attention to, yet again. So: they did not. 

Another way to look at the question of whether the U.S. is a force for good in the world is to consider America’s roles in the flaming civil and international wars that are going on around the world, particularly the issue of refugees (many of which refugees are now pouring into Europe, even in instances where the refugees are due to the U.S.).


In Iraq, after America’s 2003 invasion of that country and overthrow of its dictator Saddam Hussein, wikipedia says that, “Roughly 40% of Iraq’s middle class is believed to have fled.[15] [2] [16] Most are fleeing systematic persecution and have no desire to return.[15].”


In Libya, after America’s 2011 bombing campaign and the resultant killing of its dictator Muammar Gaddafi, wikipedia says that, 

“The Le Monde article of May 14, 2014 states ‘Estimates of their numbers vary between 600,000 and one million by the Tunisian Ministry of Interior. If we add those, many also settled in Egypt, they would be nearly two million Libyans today outside the borders of a total population estimated at just over six million inhabitants.’ [3].” 

On 15 April 2015, the Christian Science Monitor bannered, “How the fall of Qaddafi gave rise to Europe’s migrant crisis (+video),” and reported that:

“Libya’s chaos has once more made it a major way station for Africans seeking a better life, as the European Union grapples with the morality of cutting back on patrols to rescue migrants. The argument for doing less is that increasing the risk of crossing the Mediterranean would save lives. Word that there was no safety net would filter back to people, many of them fleeing persecution, and they’d stop coming.

“‘We do not support planned search and rescue operations in the Mediterranean,’ British Foreign Office Minister Joyce Anelay said last year. Rescues have  ‘an unintended ‘pull factor,’ encouraging more migrants to attempt the dangerous sea crossing and thereby leading to more tragic and unnecessary deaths,’ she argued.

It clearly hasn’t worked out that way.”


In Syria, after the U.S. bombing there, which resulted from the campaign by America and its Islamist-backing dictatorial allies Qatar and Saudi Arabia to overthrow the dictator there, Bashar al-Assad, wikipedia says

“To escape the violence, more than three and a half million Syrian refugees have fled the country to neighboring Turkey,[31][32] Lebanon, Jordan,[33] and Iraq [34] while thousands also ended up in more distant countries of the Caucasus, the Persian Gulf and North Africa. As of February 2015, Turkey has become the world’s biggest refugee hosting country with 1.7 million Syrian refugees and had spent more than US$6 billion on direct assistance to refugees.[35][36].” 

Another wikipedia article says: 

“As of March 2015, Al-Jazeera estimates 10.9 million Syrians, or almost half the population, have been displaced.[612] 3.8 million have been made refugees.[612][613] As of 2013, 1 in 3 of Syrian refugees (about 667,000 people) sought safety in tiny Lebanon (normally 4.8 million population).[614] Others have fled to Jordan, Turkey, and Iraq. Turkey has accepted +1.000.000 (2014) Syrian refugees, half of whom are spread around a cities and dozen camps placed under the direct authority of the Turkish Government. Satellite images confirmed that the first Syrian camps appeared in Turkey in July 2011, shortly after the towns of Deraa, Homs, and Hama were besieged.[615] In September 2014, the UN stated that the number of Syrian refugees had exceeded 3 million.[616]”


In Ukraine, after the February 2014 U.S. coup there overthrowing the democratically elected but corrupt President Viktor Yanukovych, wikipedia, being a site that is constantly edited by the U.S. CIA which participated in that coup, has no article on the refugee crisis there, but the Irving-Kristol-founded far-right magazine National Interest said, with noteworthy honesty in its 4 February 2015 issue, under the headline “The Great Exodus: Ukraine’s Refugees Flee to Russia,” that, 

“According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, as of December 2014, upwards of 430,000 Ukrainians had applied for refugee status or other forms of legal residency in Russia. The refugees who come unofficially, i.e. not registering with the FMS, make it difficult to count the total number of Ukrainian refugees in the country, however.” 

And, in addition, around another half-million refugees are estimated to have fled to elsewhere inside Ukraine itself. Furthermore, according to German intelligence, as reported in the Frankfurter Algemeine Zeitung, on 2 August 2014, about half-way through the Ukrainian conflict thus far, the official figure of deaths from the civil war, 5,000, was then estimated to be ten times too low: it was more like 50,000 deaths, almost all of them civilians who had lived in the area that the U.S.-backed regime has been bombing. They’re officially called ’terrorists’ for having lived in the area of Ukraine that had voted 90+% for Yanukovych, the man whom Obama overthrew.


By a rough estimate, at least tens of millions of people in the MENA and eastern European regions are refugees from U.S. and U.S.-backed invasions; and this doesn’t count anything in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, and other nations that have not even been mentioned here. (And the U.S. is taking in almost no refugees from any of the countries that are mentioned here. Instead, other nations do.)

Americans are taught that the U.S. is a force for good in the world, but all dictatorial regimes say pretty much the same thing; so, what Americans are taught doesn’t mean anything. (Not even if it might have been true in the past; perhaps before 1953, when the first major U.S. imperialist coup was imposed, in Iran.) Outside the United States, America now has a profoundly different reputation than it used to have. The current U.S. President, who has done so much to warrant that reputation of an invading lying dictatorial regime, doesn’t share that different opinion, which the rest of the world holds about the U.S. To the contrary, he insists upon an outdated Statue-of-Liberty omage of today’s United States: he told graduating West Point cadets, on 28 May 2014, shortly after the massacre that his allies did to pro-Russian pamphleteers in Odessa Ukraine on 2 May of that year, which burnt them alive:

“America continues to attract striving immigrants. The values of our founding inspire leaders in parliaments and new movements in public squares around the globe. And when a typhoon hits the Philippines, or schoolgirls are kidnapped in Nigeria, or masked men occupy a building in Ukraine, it is America that the world looks to for help. (Applause.) So the United States is and remains the one indispensable nation. That has been true for the century passed and it will be true for the century to come.

“But the world is changing with accelerating speed. This presents opportunity, but also new dangers. We know all too well, after 9/11, just how technology and globalization has put power once reserved for states in the hands of individuals, raising the capacity of terrorists to do harm. Russia’s aggression toward former Soviet states unnerves capitals in Europe, while China’s economic rise and military reach worries its neighbors. From Brazil to India, rising middle classes compete with us, and governments seek a greater say in global forums. And even as developing nations embrace democracy and market economies, 24-hour news and social media makes it impossible to ignore the continuation of sectarian conflicts and failing states and popular uprisings that might have received only passing notice a generation ago.”

It is worth pointing out here that if the U.S. is “the one indispensable nation,” as Obama claims, then all other nations are “dispensable.” They notice that, even if Americans don’t. (And there’s not much coverage in the U.S. press of the hostile import of that often-repeated phrase by our President.) Not many foreigners will be favorably impressed by such arrogance. They will, instead, consider it to be singularly undeserved and unwarranted. And, apparently, they already do. Even if the American President doesn’t.

It’s also worth noting that, until America’s actions in Iraq, Libya, Syria, and Ukraine, they all were nations friendly toward Russia.

PS: The sweet-talking pro-Wall-Street ‘Democratic’ President Obama is now finally repelling even Democrats in Congress, where almost all of his support comes from Republicans. On April 23rd, the U.S. Senate’s leading progressive, the Democrat Sherrod Brown, said, of President Obama’s attempts to ram through Congress mega-corporate international trade deals, which will extend even deeper the international-corporate race to the bottom on wages, consumer protections, and the environment:

“I think if you could get my colleagues to be honest, on the Democratic side, with you — and I think you can mostly — they will say they’ve been talked to, approached, lobbied and maybe cajoled by more cabinet members on this issue than any issue since Barack Obama’s been president.”

Obama cares more about this issue than he does about anything except, perhaps, destroying Russia. As he closes his Presidency, he is doing like did Bill Clinton (the man who started expanding NATO right up to Russia’s borders) at the end of his Presidency: giving away the house and everything, to the international corporate elite. But why are congressional Democrats waiting so late to call Obama on this, which he had evidenced, though not with such bare knuckles, even before he stepped inside the White House, specifically by trying to swing deals with Republicans on 16 January 2009. (Actually, when he appointed people like Timothy Geithner, Eric Holder, and Larry Summers, right after being elected in 2008, there was already strong reason to suspect him.) Why are congressional Democrats such slow learners, taking nearly seven years fo know what they should have recognized even back then – that he’s actually just a closeted Republican, a conservative Manchurian Candidate, a Trojan Horse from the CIA? (Also see here.)


Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010, and of CHRIST’S VENTRILOQUISTS: The Event that Created Christianity, and of Feudalism, Fascism, Libertarianism and Economics.